Couple suffering summer heat and fanning with a fan

Everyone has his or her own definition of what’s cool. For some, it’s a driving a vintage sports car while for others it’s wearing a trendy outfit or having the latest high-tech gadget.

In the summer heat or during heavy exercise, your body doesn’t need a Porsche or a Prada bag to stay cool — perspiring does the job. But, during hot weather, especially with high humidity, sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Without taking proper precautions, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you may develop a heat illness.

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heatstroke – a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F

in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness

  • Heat exhaustion – an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heat cramps – muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
  • Heat rash – skin irritation from excessive sweating

Most heat illnesses occur simply from staying out in the heat too long. Exercising too much for your age and physical condition are also factors. Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are most at risk.

According to the National Institutes of Health, heat illnesses are easily preventable by taking the following precautions:

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing
  • Rest frequently and seek shade when possible
  • Avoid exercise or strenuous physical activity outside during hot or humid weather
  • Drink plenty of fluids every day. Drink more fluids before, during, and after physical activity
  • Be especially careful to avoid overheating if you are taking medications that impair heat regulation, or if you are overweight or elderly
  • Be careful of hot cars in the summer. Allow the car to cool off before getting in

If the problem isn’t addressed, heat cramps, caused by loss of salt from heavy sweating, can lead to heat exhaustion, which can progress to heatstroke. Heatstroke, the most serious of the three, can cause shock, brain damage, organ failure and even death.

If you or a loved one are developing symptoms of a heat-related illness and you’re not sure what do to, call your Primary Care Physician. If the person shows signs of shock (bluish lips and fingernails and decreased alertness), starts having seizures, or loses consciousness, call 911.

Saint Alphonsus is committed to providing resources that promote wellness though body, mind and spirit and is dedicated to helping you Live Your Whole Life.